BILLINGS – It’s back to school for Billings area schools this week.
It’s also back to the school zones for a special group of Billings police officers.
“We’ve had a break for a couple months and people kind of get lax on watching the crosswalks, watching for pedestrians,” said Billings STEP officer Brandon Ihde.
Ihde has seen it first hand, he’s one of four that make up the Selective Traffic Enforcement Program or, STEP.
While images of backpacks and books come to mind at the start of a new school year, it also means a busier time for STEP officers.
“We focus on school zones as much as we can every day. So we might have the whole team together working one area, two, three times a day, morning, lunchtime, and after school. We are really aggressive with the school zones. And if you’re stopped by a traffic officer, you can pretty much count on you’re getting a $300 ticket,” Ihde said.
That’s a $300 citation for speeding or using a cell phone in a school zone the first time. The second offense is $500.
The cost is high, but could ultimately cost much more.
“A collision with a child is a lot more traumatic than hitting an adult. We always have a few each year where a kid is nearly struck or actually is hit. Obviously, that is pretty serious for a kid because of their height. They take a lot of that impact right into their torso, that’s where all your vitals are. And then you have the concerns that they’re going to go underneath the vehicle also because of their height,” Ihde said.
Speed limits vary from one school to the next.
Even though officers and crossing guards will be around to keep children safe, Ihde said parents also need to make sure kids have a safe route to school, and know how to keep themselves safe.